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Cancer patients, worse hit by COVID-19- Medical Mission



The  outbreak of COVID-19 will serve as a wake-up call for all to support the ‘Big War Against Cancer’ as cancer patients are the worse hit by the virus.

Dr Abia Nzelu, the Executive Secretary, Mass Medical Mission (MMM), made the assertion on Saturday in Lagos.

Nzelu said: “If cancer patients in the developed countries have double jeopardy when hit by the virus, Nigeria’s cancer patients are faced with a quadruple jeopardy due to dearth of infrastructure for cancer care.

“Cancer is the single most important barrier to increasing life expectancy in every country of the world in the 21st century.

“While the cancer patients in developed countries have a double jeopardy in that they are worse hit by the COVID-19 crisis, our  cancer patients are worse off,” Nzelu said in a statement.

According to her,  the dearth of infrastructure for cancer care; restriction on medical tourism due to the lockdown; and finally, the diversion of the few resources available locally toward addressing the COVID-19 crisis are reasons   why they are worse hit.

Nzelu stressed the need for establishment of at least a Comprehensive Cancer Centre (CCC) as a tertiary health institution focussed exclusively on cancer care.

She said while country like India have over 200 functional CCC, Nigeria has yet to establish one.

“Nigerians spent over 200 million U.S dollars annually for treatment of cancer abroad, an amount that is sufficient to set up three Comprehensive Cancer Centres in Nigeria every year.

“Sadly, most Nigerians who

travelled abroad still end up dying, because of the late presentation,” Nzelu said.

She said that when Nigeria reported its first Coronavirus-related death,which occurred on March 22,  the casualty was a cancer patient who returned from UK for chemotheraphy treatment.

“Whilst it is imperative for all to do

everything right and beneficial  to check the spread of the dreaded COVID-19, it must not remove our attention from much bigger and much deadlier health problems like cancer.

“We must also keep up the relentless fight against other conditions which are risk factors for cancer, including Human Papillomavirus (HPV), , hepatitis virus, malaria, hypertension and diabetes,” she added.

Quoting the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), Nzelu said there were over 18 million new cancer cases globally and 9.6 million cancer deaths every year.

She said that Cancer kills 26,000 people daily more than the global death toll of COVID-19 in 85 days.

COVID-19 is known to have a single digit mortality rate of between 0 per cent and nine per cent of those infected with the virus (about 4.5% globally).

“Meanwhile, the global mortality rate of cancer is 53 per cent.

“In Nigeria, over 100,000 new

cases of cancer are diagnosed annually out of which about 70,000 died,” the expert said.

Nzelu noted that cancer was a bigger problem in Nigeria than other better publicised problems, including militancy, kidnapping, armed robbery and pipelines explosions.

“Hence, there is an urgent need to escalate efforts to establish the first Comprehensive Cancer Centre in Nigeria for the optimal care of confirmed cancers.

“In future, the CCC could always be adapted to fight unexpected health crises, like COVID-19,” she said.

Edited By: Edith Bolokor/ Olagoke Olatoye


COVID-19: Mission advises cancer patients on adequate care against contraction



The Mass Medical Mission (MMM) has advised cancer patients to be extremely careful and adhere strictly to the appropriate precautions against contraction of Coronavirus (COVID-19) disease.

The Mission’s Executive Secretary, Dr Abia Nzelu, gave the advice in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Wednesday in Lagos.

Nzelu said the advice became pertinent considering the fact that these categories of people were at greater risk of contracting the virus more than others.

According to her, most cancer treatments like chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiation can weaken the immune system, and thereby exposing cancer patients to higher risks of contracting infectious diseases.

She noted that cancer patients were twice likely to become infected than the general population and significantly more likely to die from COVID-19 once infected.

“Individuals with weakened immune systems such as cancer patients or those on immunosuppressive medications might be at higher risk for infection and complications associated with the virus that causes COVID-19 illness.

“This is why it is very necessary that cancer patients should go the extra mile to observe all precautionary measures to protect themselves from contracting infectious diseases, particularly the deadly Coronavirus disease.

“Because once contracted, the cancer patient has lower chances of survival than other patients due to their weakened immune system,” she said.

Nzelu, therefore, emphasised the need for special treatment and care for them.

She advised cancer patients to go the extra mile to observe the precautionary measures and ensure their safety, irrespective of whether others were obeying or violating the guidelines/precautions.

Nzelu also advised cancer patients not to take advantage of the gradual easing of lockdown to relax or neglect their health condition.

She urged them to always be conscious of their health and never do things others were doing.

According to her, the use of tele-medicine, which allow patients in different locations to access medical expertise quickly without having to travel should be strongly encouraged and embraced by cancer patients.

Nzelu said that cancer patients were not supposed to frequently visit hospitals, particularly during this period, but could do so when it became unavoidably necessary.

“The importance of tele-medicine and electronic communication cannot be overemphasised.

“Let cancer patients embrace them and learn to communicate with their doctors electronically instead of frequenting the hospitals,” Nzelu said.

Edited By: Edwin Nwachukwu/Olagoke Olatoye (NAN)

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Australian researchers identify obscure protein responsible for advanced breast cancer




Scientists from Australia’s South Australia (SA) state have discovered how an obscure protein can accelerate the development and growth of breast cancer.

In a study published on Tuesday, researchers from the Centre for Cancer Biology (CCB) at the University of South Australia (UniSA) described how aggressive cancers produce Creld2, a protein that hijacks healthy cells to promote tumour growth.

“Scientists have been aware of this protein for some time, but it has not been well-studied and until now we hadn’t understood the role it plays in breast cancer. Creld2 appears to make normal, healthy cells surrounding the tumour behave abnormally, causing them to help tumours grow,” Michael Samuel, co-author of the study, said in a media release.

According to Breast Cancer Network Australia, breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in Australian women, accounting for about 29 percent of all new cancers in Australian women in 2019, and the second leading cause of cancer death in Australian women after lung cancer.

The team at the CCB, an alliance between the University of South Australia and SA Pathology, is now working on how to stop or destroy Creld2 with the aim of stopping breast cancers from growing and spreading around the body.

High levels of the protein are found in triple negative breast cancers, which make up 15 percent of breast cancer cases in Australia and have the poorest survival rate.

Creld2 at high levels is also found in kidney cancers and non-melanoma skin cancers, which are the the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia.

“The prognosis for all these cancers is not good, so if we can destroy or block this protein, we could potentially stop these cancers from growing,” Samuel said.


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General news

Ministry to support NGOs to sensitise women on dangers of cancers



The Ministry of Women Affairs on Friday pledged to support non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to sensitise Nigerian women on the dangers of breast and cervical cancers.

The Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, made the pledge, while receiving COVID-19 protective materials from an NGO, OCI Foundation, in Abuja.

Tallen appreciated the organisation’s support to collaborate with the ministry and their selfless services in the advocacy for girls, women on cervical and breast cancers.

“The mandate of the ministry is to empower women and children resulting from crisis, humanitarian situations and indeed COVID-19 pandemic currently ravaging the world.

“I commend your efforts; what you are doing is in line with the UN advocacy for HeForShe as women cannot do it alone, we appreciate,” the minister said.

She, however, said that the ministry would continue to support the NGO morally and technically, in programming and advancing the course of women and vulnerable groups in the country.

Tallen said the ministry was committed to collaborate with all relevant stakeholders to promote welfare and rights of vulnerable groups to access preventive and quality healthcare services.

Earlier, the Head of Advocacy of the Foundation, Mr Sam Agwa, said that their visit was to solicit the support of the ministry on their promotion initiative.

According to Agwa, the initiative seeks to introduce anti-breast and anti-cervical cancer teachings into the curriculum of all Nigerian senior secondary schools.

“It also creates anti-cancer awareness for our women and children in ways that facilitate early empowerment,” he said.

Ogwa also said the presentation of anti-COVID-19 materials, including hand sanitisers, handwashing soaps and customised face masks from the OCI Foundation, was to support the ministry as the workers are gradually resuming duty.

“We also join the Federal Government and other healthcare leaders in calling on every
Nigerian to practice preventive measures including safe social distancing, regular handwashing and sanitising, wearing of face masks, and staying indoors as much as possible,” he said.

Edited By: Ifeyinwa Okonkwo/Olagoke Olatoye (NAN)

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Former Thai foreign minister dies of cancer




Thai former foreign minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul died of liver cancer in a Bangkok hospital on Wednesday, at age 67.

A former member of the Pheu Thai Party, Surapong was the foreign minister during the tenure of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra from 2011-2014.

He had been serving a two-year prison term in a ruling by the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions in October last year for reissuing a passport to fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

However the court later suspended Surapong’s prison sentence because of his age and poor health.


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Cervical Cancer: Expert advises regular Pap smear test for women for early detection



Dr Lydia Ogbalor, a gynecologist in Calvary Hospital, Warri in Delta has advised women to go for Pap Smear (Papanicolaou) test to avoid cervical cancer.

Ogbalor who disclosed this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Tuesday in Benin, defined Cervical Cancer as “a malignant tumour of the cervix, the lowermost part of the uterus”.

“It’s malignant tumour of the lower-most part of the uterus (womb) that can be prevented by Pap smear screening and a HPV vaccine.

“Cervical cancer can often be prevented by having regular screenings to find any precancers and treat them, as well as receiving the HPV vaccine.

“Cervical cancer tends to occur during midlife. It is most frequently diagnosed in women between the ages of 35 and 44. It rarely affects women under age 20, and more than 15 percent of diagnoses are made in women older than 65.

“Mothers should give their girl children HPV vaccines from the age 9. Majority of people with cervical cancer today, were not aware of the HPV vaccine.

“Vaccinate 9 to 13-year-old girls with two doses of HPV vaccine to prevent infection with the Human papillomavirus (HPV), the virus responsible for most cases of cervical cancer,’’ she said.

Ogbalor advised women to talk with a healthcare provider about the appropriate schedule for vaccination because it may vary based on many factors, including age and vaccine availability.

She said some factors that could help prevent cervical cancer included delaying first sexual intercourse until the late teens or older age, limiting the number of sex partners, practicing safe sex by using condoms and dental dams.

Others are avoiding sexual intercourse with people who have had many partners and also avoiding sexual intercourse with people who are infected with genital warts or show other symptoms.

Ogbalor said there might be no symptoms, but in a few cases, there may be irregular bleeding or pain, pain in the pelvis, pain during sexual intercourse.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the World Health Organization recommends that all women receive at least one HPV test to screen for cervical cancer in their lifetime. Ideally, women 25 to 65 years old should receive an HPV test once every five years.

Women 65 years and older or who had a hysterectomy may stop screening if their HPV test results have been mostly negative over the previous 15 years.

Sometimes, women who are 65 and older and who have tested positive for HPV may continue screening until they are 70.

Edited By: Ifeyinwa Okonkwo/Maureen Atuonwu (NAN)


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India’s major pharmaceutical company launches prostate cancer drug at 70 pc lower price in domestic market




India’s Cadila Healthcare has launched a drug for treating prostate cancer at a significantly lower weekly therapy cost of 79 U.S. dollars, which is 70 percent less compared to the prevailing therapy cost in the domestic market, a company statement said Friday.

The drug, named Enzalutamide, launched under the brand name Obnyx, will be available in soft gelatin capsules at a monthly treatment cost of 357 U.S. dollars while the current maximum retail price prevailing in the market is between 926-1,058 U.S. dollars, the statement said.

In the United States, Enzalutamide is sold under the brand name Xtandi and is sold in several countries worldwide.

Prostate cancer is one of the leading cancers in Indian males with one out of nine men having the risk of developing prostate cancer during their lifetime. The incidence is nearly 60 percent in men over 65 years of age, the statement said.

The drug reduces the effect of androgens (a male reproductive hormone) on prostate gland by blocking them and arresting the growth of prostate cancer cells.

With annual revenue of 913 million U.S. dollars, Cadila Healthcare is ranked 4th in the Indian pharmaceutical space with manufacturing facilities across five states in India as also in the United States and Brazil.


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Irrfan Khan, Indian actor in ‘Life of Pi’ dies after battling cancer



Irrfan Khan, an Indian actor who brought a modern sensibility to recent hit films and hard roles in Hollywood movies such as “Life of Pi” and “The Namesake”, died on Wednesday at age 54.

The death, after a prolonged battle with cancer, was confirmed by a spokesman who said Khan was surrounded by family at the time.

“He fought the many battles that came with it,” the spokesman said in a statement, referring to the diagnosis of Khan’s rare cancer in 2018.

Khan was among the first Indian actors to make a consistent mark in Western cinema, following in the footsteps of crossover pioneers such as Saeed Jaffrey, Roshan Seth and Om Puri.

Born Sahabzade Irfan Ali Khan in the western desert state of Rajasthan, in a family with no ties to cinema, the actor recalled in interviews that as children, he and his siblings were not allowed to watch movies.

The only exception was when a visiting uncle took them to the theatre.

“An incredible talent,” said Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan, among the tributes on Twitter that followed Khan’s death.

“A gracious colleague. A prolific contributor to the world of cinema .. left us too soon creating a huge vacuum.”

Another well-known director, Karan Johar, said: “Thank you for raising the bar as an artist … Thank you for enriching our cinema… We will miss you terribly, Irrfan.”

Edited By: Emmanuel Okara/Muhammad Suleiman Tola (NAN)

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Immune cell type in breast ducts points to better treatment of breast cancer: Aussie research




A new type of specialized immune cells that maintain the health of breast ducts has been discovered using advanced imaging techniques, pointing to better understanding and treatment of breast cancer, according to a latest Australian research.

The immune cells help to keep breast tissue healthy by regulating a vital process within mammary ducts — the sites where milk is produced and transported, but also where most breast cancers arise, the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research said in a statement on Tuesday.

The researchers used high-resolution 3D imaging to observe how the cells monitor threats in the mammary ducts and help maintain tissue health.

“We discovered an entirely new population of specialized immune cells, which we named ductal macrophages, squeezed in between two layers of the mammary duct wall,” institute researcher Caleb Dawson said.

“We were excited to find that these cells play an essential role at a pivotal point in mammary gland function called involution when lactation stops, milk-producing cells die and breast tissue needs to remodel back to its original state,” he said.

“We watched incredulously as the star-shaped ductal macrophages probed with their arms and ate away dying cells. The clearing action performed by ductal macrophages helps redundant milk-producing structures to collapse, allowing them to successfully return to a resting state.”

When the researchers later removed the specialized cells from the mammary ducts they discovered that no other immune cells were able to swiftly carry out the essential process, according to the institute. The findings were published in scientific journal Nature Cell Biology.

More than 19,000 Australians are diagnosed with breast cancer every year and it is the most common cancer in Australian women, according to the institute.

The researchers, going forward, hope to explore the function of ductal macrophages at different stages of mammary gland development, such as the transitions into adulthood and pregnancy, Dawson said.

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Cancer survivor establishes diagnostic centre in Jalingo



Hajiya Hadiza Bello-Yero, a cervical cancer survivor, has established a cancer diagnostic centre in Jalingo, Taraba capital, for early detection and treatment of the deadly disease.

Bello-Yero confirmed this when she conducted a correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria round the temporary site of the “Fhamas Cancer Diagnostics Centre” situated at Number 17, Buba Ardo Road in Jalingo on Wednesday.

She said that the pain of cancer, the cost of treatment and lack of easy access to facilities were some of the factors that compelled her to establish the centre.

“As an architect I had nothing to do with the medical line until 2014 when I was diagnosed with Cancer of the Cervix.

“I underwent my surgery in Nigeria, precisely Gwagwalada Specialist, now Teaching Hospital in Abuja.

“Thereafter I was advised to go for further treatment abroad if I could afford,” she told NAN.

The cancer survivor said because she had the resources, she went to the American Hospital in Dubai where she had her Chemotherapy  and Radiotherapy treatments and later travelled to Abudhabi for Brachytherapy treatment.

“So within one year and with good attention I was declared cancer free.

“It was then that the idea of setting up a cancer diagnosis and treatment centre came to my mind.

“Based on my experience, I discovered that we don’t have a comprehensive cancer centre in Nigeria and as a result many people die of the treatable disease,” she explained.

She said the centre was aimed at helping those who could not afford to travel abroad to access treatment at lesser cost.

 “They will also access medical services without having to pay much money.

 “Because of the limited number of machines we have in this part of the country you find out that so many patients die while waiting on the queue.

“We need to have a complete treatment centre where you diagnose, detect and treat cancer patients at an affordable price,” she further explained.

According to Bello-Yero, she procured machines for the laboratory where preliminary testing for early detection can take place.

She added that UltraSound Scanners and ECG Machine have been installed, while awaiting the arrival of Digital mobile x-ray machine and Mammography Machine that would take care of related complications especially in women.

The 55-year-old proprietor and mother of five said: “My dream is to develop to a level where we can engage in the training of young doctors and nurses in the area of Oncology and Radiology without resorting to travel abroad.

“I took interest in this project because I am a victim, I know what is called cancer, the treatment of cancer alone is killing not to talk of cancer itself.

“I remember two years after my treatment, I was not myself. I was indoors for one year because my immunity was completely down and I could easily get infected.”

She disclosed that currently the centre has one doctor, two medical laboratory scientists, two technical assistants, nurses and few other supporting staff, while a Consultant from the Gwagwalada Teaching Hospital has been engaged to be visiting regularly.

While describing the way cancer patients were handled in the country as pathetic, she called on the Federal Government and other NGOs to come to the aid of the project to enable it reduce the cost of treatment for cancer patients in the country.

“I have already acquired about four hectares of land here in Jalingo where I intend to build a permanent site.

“It will be a complete cancer centre with all facilities including a 3-star hotel accommodation, treatment centre, research centre,  rehabilitation centre, and doctors and nurses quarters.

“My hope is that one day people from America or England can come here for treatment and that is the idea of having a 3-star hotel within the master plan for our permanent site,” Bello-Yero said.

Edited By: Muhammad Suleiman Tola (NAN)

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